State Watch

Oklahoma judge blocks state ban on mask mandates

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A judge in Oklahoma issued a temporary injunction against legislation that would ban mask mandates in schools, saying that the state law only affects public schools and not private institutions as well.

The temporary injunction blocking the ban will become effective next week, but Judge Natalie Mai said that schools must provide parents and children the ability to opt out of a school’s mask mandate, according to The Associated Press.

Mai explained that had the law included both public and private education institutions, she would have allowed it to remain in place, according to KOCO-TV. An appeal to Mai’s ruling could happen during the next hearing on the state law.

In a tweet, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) took the ruling as a win, saying “Today’s ruling on SB658 in Oklahoma District Court is a victory for parental choice, personal responsibility and the rule of law.”

The announcement comes as the Biden administration’s Education Department said earlier this week that it would be investigating whether five states’ bans on mask mandates amounts to possible discrimination against students with disabilities or other health conditions. Those states include Utah, Tennessee, Iowa, South Carolina and Oklahoma.

Some Republican officials, including Stitt, have argued that the parents and not schools should have the ability to decide whether their children wear masks in the classroom. However, school officials have pointed to the spread of the delta variant and rising COVID-19 infections as reasons to make masks required. 

Cases in Oklahoma have continued to steadily climb upward; on Monday, the state saw 1,903. On Aug. 25, the daily COVID-19 caseload was as high as 4,152 new infections. In comparison, new cases were in the high double-digits and low hundreds in May and June, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, only 44 percent of people in Oklahoma are fully vaccinated.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 Education Department Kevin Stitt mask mandate Oklahoma
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